Three Possible Solutions To Right Indiana Against Minnesota

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Indiana's NCAA Tournament outlook is bleak. Tom Crean is searching for answers. The fan base is upset.

But still, IU trudges along.

As losers of five of their last six heading into Wednesday's 9 p.m. tip against Minnesota (18-7, 6-6), the Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8) have reached a point where they'll either need to win out, claim the Big Ten Tournament title or worry about solidifying a spot in the NIT.

Regardless, Indiana needs wins. Getting them requires change.

“We still have a season left to play,” junior guard Robert Johnson said after losing t oMichigan. “We still have a lot of opportunities so we’re definitely not thinking about quitting. We always look forward to the next game, but now we’re just looking forward to getting better and moving and that’s another opportunity.”

Leadership has to come from somewhere

Tom Crean has talked about a lack of leadership off and on over the last few years.

Right now, it appears there simply isn't any from veteran players.

He didn't mention any names in particular after losing to Michigan but made a point of calling out his group of juniors in particular. That means Johnson, James Blackmon Jr., Freddie McSwain and Josh Newkirk.

Perhaps it also means Tim Priller. That isn't as likely considering he doesn't play.

It would appear sophomore center Thomas Bryant is trying to take control of things.

"Thomas is really trying to lead the team, and he's not getting a lot of help," Crean said. "But he's trying to make up for a group of juniors that just really have no ability right now to see past themselves when it comes to what it takes for us to be successful."

Leadership doesn't show up overnight. It's developed. So Indiana won't suddenly have better leadership when it takes the floor against the Golden Gophers.

But the ingredients that go into leadership like focus, confidence, passion, patience and transparency can come from anyone at any time. If the Hoosiers are going to right themselves, it needs to come now.

Get Blackmon going

When James Blackmon Jr. plays well, Indiana plays well.

When he plays poorly, Indiana does not.

Blackmon is averaging 12.6 points per game in Indiana losses, which is a little more than four points per game less than his season average. Toss out a 26-point outburst in a loss to Butler and a 22-point showing in a loss to Maryland and that average drops to just 9.42 points per game.

Indiana is 2-2 in games Blackmon didn't appear in. The wins came against Mississippi Valley State and Penn State.

When Blackmon gets going offensively it translates to the defensive side of the ball. That makes Indiana an all-around better program. It's what makes Blackmon such a dangerous player.

But when he's not putting the ball through the hoop, IU struggles to find offense. With injuries piling up, the Hoosiers can't afford having to lean on guys like Zach McRoberts or Freddie McSwain for scoring if they want to start winning once more.

It's time for De'Ron Davis to become a focal point

Give De'Ron Davis the ball. Simple.

It worked well last game. The freshman center scored a team-high 13 points off the bench in the Hoosiers' loss to Michigan in what was the lone bright spot on an otherwise dark afternoon.

“I was just being aggressive,” Davis said. “My teammates were feeding me the ball, making good passes. So I was just being aggressive and really just trying to make the right play.”

In just 14 minutes, Davis made 4-of-5 shots from the field and another 5-of-6 from the line. He seemed comfortable in the post and doesn't give up much defensively, either.

After dealing with conditioning issues early, it would appear Davis is comfortable eating up minutes. And if Bryant is going to continue floating around on the outside, it might do IU some good to have a true post.

“We’ve got to continue to play him more,” Crean said. “He’s very, very hard to guard and he’s got great feet, hands and eyes. He can pass the ball. We want him to do a lot of passing now and we’re not doing enough cuts to get those passes.”


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